Corporate Video: Viewer connection

Technological advances and a shifting corporate landscape have transformed the corporate video. Ian Evans reports.

Most of us at some time in our working lives have been gathered into a meeting room and shown a corporate video.

Whether it's a David Brentesque manager informing us of good business practice, or the health and safety department advising us how to be careful around the office, the video is an established medium for education and corporate promotion.

But while dated or poor-quality products may continue to blight some people's perception of corporate videos, the bulk of the British sector has earned an international reputation for professionalism, innovation and creativity in a UK industry worth £500m.

Employing thousands of cameramen, script writers, producers, editors, post-production, lighting and sound staff among others, the corporate video has become an important part of the marketing mix, according to Band & Brown Communications CEO Gerry Hopkinson.

'With increasing globalisation and the need to communicate on an international level, videos are essential,' he says. 'But it can't be just a propaganda tool for the client. There has to be two-way communication, a question and answer element built in.'

Video, whether on celluloid, DVD, CD-Rom or online, can be an attractive communications alternative to print. Done well, it's compelling and can bring a subject to life, making an audience sit up and listen in a way the written word cannot.

Large Blue director Ade Thomas says there are a number of techniques to enhance a message via video, such as music, lighting, colour, graphics and different shot angles.

Charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People employed Large Blue last year to make a corporate video at a cost of £15,000. 'The last corporate video we had taped was 12 years ago, so it was a bit old,' says head of PR Jenny Moir. 'We changed our name and corporate logos so a new video had to reflect that. Because of the nature of what we do, videos are a great tool because we only have so many dogs to show people and we can't just transport them round the country. Of course, pictures of puppies and dogs also have an emotional pull.'

The organisation received 100 DVDs, 100 CD-Roms and 200 videos, which have since been distributed to its branches, volunteers, rotary clubs and various other groups.

Informative, interesting, honest

The current social environment has had an affect on how corporate video is put together. The scope of media outlets, allowing access to information 24/7, means people have become more discerning and cynical when it comes to how information is portrayed.

World Television chief operating officer Jon King, whose company boasts BP, Sony and Amnesty International among its clients, argues that if you are putting together a video for internal communications use, staff will want to know about issues such as possible redundancies.

'If you don't include that, people will want to know why there hasn't been more honesty,' he says. 'Ten years ago, corporate video was the equivalent of TV Pravda. You got people into a room and made them watch a dull video, which would tell them what the management thought they needed to know.

But you can't do that now.'

A further key element to a successful video is to inform viewers without boring them. One recent example was a video shot for BP by World Television in Los Angeles, showing its rehabilitation programme for drink and drug addicts. BP had been suffering high staff turnover at its petrol stations.

When it joined forces with a rehab centre and took on reformed addicts by giving them jobs, staff turnover fell and profits increased, which made for an interesting and informative video.

Technology advantage

While print media can provide detail and context in a way video cannot, a video can excite and amuse people in the way the printed word often fails to do.

King says advances in technology allows companies to monitor feedback on the intranet viewing of videos at companies such as Sony. 'We can see how many people watch the video at their desktop, how long for and at which point they (switch off) - all useful information on the effectiveness of the medium,' he says.

While not all firms have large budgets for corporate videos - and cost is a consideration - Pukka Films founder Paul Katis says he is realistic during discussions with clients. 'More often than not they will trust our judgement,' he says. 'But if they want to cut costs here and there, we will tell them it will affect the final product, although it's their final decision.'

His clients include the Youth Justice Board, which last year paid £50,000 for a 20-minute film on how to compile court reports.

Thomas, meanwhile, says cheaper operators can damage the reputation of the wider industry. 'Good-quality (video) isn't cheap, but it's a cost-effective medium,' he says. He claims that the general rule for attaining quality is to spend at least £1,000 per minute for a documentary-style film of ten to 15 minutes. A shorter film of about three minutes, to launch a conference, say, would typically take three or four days and cost £5,000.

If the chief consideration for a firm about to commission a video is to make sure it produces a clear message for the audience, capturing their imagination should be at the forefront of the planning stage. It's time to say goodbye to the Brent style.

IVCA: THE TRADE BODY'S VIEW

The International Visual Communications Association (IVCA) has more than 1,000 members involved in the video production process, ranging from individuals to firms employing hundreds of staff. It also represents around 1,500 members who commission videos.

Although most people refer to the end product as videos, IVCA chief executive Wayne Drew is keen to stress that the end product includes DVD, CD-Rom, the internet and intranets.

He estimates that around 60 per cent of corporate videos are made for internal comms, with the rest for external audiences. But whether they be for staff, potential customers or business partners, he says the ethos and planning should be the same.

'It has to be part of an overall strategy that involves plenty of planning,' he says. 'Production companies could probably turn a video around in a couple of days but I would question the end product's worth. It shouldn't be thought of as a last-minute add-on.

'You have to think the strategy through from the format you want to use to the message you want to convey.'

Last year, corporate visual communications had a turnover of £2.8bn, £500m of which came from the UK video production sector, which employs around 2,500 people.

'The British film industry was worth £300m last year, so that puts the value of our sector into some kind of context,' says Drew. He adds that in recent years, there has been a growth in demand for videos covering reputation management and social responsibility.

'We live in evolving times and organisations want to use visual solutions to put over key messages,' he says. 'The industry suffered from 9/11 when communication budgets were cut and there was a big shake-up. But things are becoming more stable now.'

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